Last weekend, GM had a conversation with a Georgetown restaurant owner that left him feeling pretty glum about the future of Georgetown’s dining scene. Reaching the same conclusion that many have reached, the owner said that Georgetown had lost the young people who were now spending all their dining budget on U St. or 14th. He said many restaurants in Georgetown are just barely holding on.
But when it came time for GM to sit down and add up all the restaurants that opened in 2013 and those that closed (as part of his annual census) GM reached a different conclusion: the Georgetown dining scene is in good shape. There are some caveats, but we’ll get to those later.
First, last year (for these purposes, GM is counting roughly February 2013-February 2014) sixteen restaurants opened in Georgetown. Moreover, only seven closed. And of those seven, two of them were Iceberry.
Compare that to the previous year when only six restaurants opened and eighteen closed. The year before that only four opened and eleven closed. So this is a dramatic turn around.
But why doesn’t it feel that way? For one thing, some of the spaces that previously contained restaurants, got occupied by non-restaurants this year. That includes Frye and Co. taking over Paparazzi’s space, Billy Reid taking over Pizzeria Uno’s space, and Jaryam taking Leonidas old space (yes for these purposes GM counts sweets shops as restaurants). Also, some more spaces would qualify for this, but they hadn’t opened yet in time for GM’s count. That includes Nadeau in the former Rugby space, Sandro in the old Red Fire Kabob space, and (possibly) Under Armour in the current Serendipity 3 space.
But that doesn’t take away the fact that sixteen restaurants opened here last year. That’s almost hard to believe until you realize that so many of the new places opened up off the beaten path. There’s Gypsy Sally’s and Malmaison practically under the bridge, Olivia Macaron on an alley, Pinstripes in the back of the mall, and Noodles, Sweet Frog and Pho Viet and Grille on upper Wisconsin Ave.
That’s not to say that 2014 can’t be the year when the grim prognosis GM received is realized. It’s certainly true that none of the new restaurants have made much of a dent in Georgetown’s reputation with the young people who don’t spend their dining budget here anymore. But for now, at least, there’s no need to panic.